During my time in the United States Navy I witness many situations in which those in positions of leadership used appropriate leadership styles that were ideal for the characteristics of followers and the goals of the mission. (Northouse, 2016, p.115) Being deployed for 9-months where thousands of young sailors are contained in a very close proximity to one another it was critical that leaders matched their behaviors to the follower’s characteristics in order to affect the motivation of the followers in their everyday tasks that were always changing. The objective of the path-goal theory outlined by Northouse (2016) identifies that the being directive, supportive, participative and achievement oriented are all behaviors that can be tailored to the characteristics of the followers and the tasks within a given situation to provide an ideal level of follower motivation to complete the goals outlined by an organization. (p.116) Looking back on my time in the Navy I will provide an example of my supervisor was able to use supportive behaviors to his followers keeping in mind their characteristics and the nature of the tasks required to be completed by those within the engineering department.
The method of the leadership Path-Goal Theory is outlined in the Figure 6.2, from Northouse (2016, p.117) which shows the relationship between leader behaviors, and follower as well as task characteristics to ultimately motivate followers to achieve the end goal. This method was utilized by the superiors in my engineering department. Over different instances and scenarios within my department our leaders made the decision of what types of behaviors to exhibit dependent upon which follower they were working with and the job that was to be completed.
My supervisors title was Chief Petty Officer Machinist Mate Harms (MMC Harms). MMC Harms was responsible for 8 junior sailors including myself. The group of individuals that reported to MMC Harms ranged from Fireman (E-3) all the way to a Petty Officer First Class (E-6). It was the responsibility of our chief to help provide us junior sailors with the best leadership behavior to help motivate us in a given situation. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. I was looking to feel as though I was a part of a team; a highly functioning member of the United States Navy as an auxiliary mechanic.
Shortly after arriving on board the USS John C. Stennis I was personally faced with an obstacle. I was far away from home in the Persian Gulf, I was not around anyone familiar, and I was being hazed by members within my department. Pershing (2006) indicates that hazing in the military is viewed as a method of indoctrination of newer members. That this form of misconduct is viewed by those in the military as a means to create, “comrade and cohesion” (Pershing, 2006, p.4). Instead what ended up occurring was that as a follower I felt inferior to the others within my team. My motivation level was diminishing and I was beginning to become unsatisfied in the tasks that were offered to me by my peers. I was made to feel inferior by others and needed support from my supervisor.
The ability to have open communication with my supervisor about the obstacles I was facing was not easy for me to work through. However, MMC Harms was a well-trained experienced salty sailor. He knew what type of leadership behavior he needed to offer during this challenge for myself and the other members of my team. (Carlson, 2003) In order to enable me to become more motivated in my work and was able to remove the obstacle of being subjected to hazing which is strictly against Navy policy. He instructed that I be given jobs that would allow for a sense of purpose. Something that would offer me with a challenge and aid in my ability to advance in my career which would led to my level of motivation to become vastly elevated in a very short period of time.
In situations such as the one I have described above it can be difficult for leaders to understand which type of leadership behavior that would best fit the needs of their subordinates and the tasks to be completed. My supervisor MMC Harms was one of the best that I had during my time in the Navy due largely in part to his ability to be aware of a given task and followers characteristics and to know which type of behavior to use.
Carlson, A. (2003) Salt-less sailors seasoned at sea. USS Kitty Hawk Public Affairs. Retrieved June 14, 2018 from http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=10115
Northouse, P. G. (2016) Leadership: theory and practice (7th ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.
Pershing, J. L. (2006) Men and women’s experience with hazing in a male-dominated elite military institution. Men and Masculinities, 8(4), 470-492. doi: 10.1177/1097184X05277411